Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells her stories to the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.
After the death of her stepmother, Briony develops some self-hatred toward herself and has a strong need to protect her mentally disabled sister, Rose. But there's something else far more dangerous than anything else: she holds a dark secret from the rest of the world - one that she needs to keep buried no matter the cost. You see, Briony is a witch, and in her Victorian-like village, being a witch means you're an outcast in society, and one who will be hanged without a question. It's tough for Briony to keep this secret, especially when there's a town boy who is convinced he's going to marry her someday and then she ends up feeling drawn to a mysterious young fellow named Eldric, a boy who holds many secrets of his own.
The hardest thing for me while reading this book was the overall connection it tried to convey with many of its readers. Sadly though, I didn't feel it. With Briony as the main character, I can see many readers sympathizing with her and her circumstances, but with all the self-loathing and all that angst that Briony felt for herself made it even harder to like her. And it didn't help that I was buried with too many descriptive words that did so little to make any of the real action happen . . . if you know what I mean. But I admit, as the story progressed and as Billingsley's world unfolded into something much more than I first anticipated, Briony started to grow a little on me as a character (including the other supporting cast and even Eldric himself who was an intriguing character all on his own) and it got to a point where you actually started to love the initial storyline.
Despite the flaws, the overall plot of CHIME was a fairly interesting and unique story. There's was a lot of potential in this book and it could've been better if there weren't so many slow scenes and unnecessary dialogue . . . however I did thoroughly enjoyed it when I reached the finishing pages. While this book may not be of everyone's cup of tea in YA fiction, but it's an entertaining read with elements of family, romance, loss and personal growth, which is ideal for many fans of teen historical fiction. Only with an edge of the paranormal mixed into it.